HOMEGROWN Life: Giving Up Control


| 6/18/2013 2:53:00 PM


Tags: dairy farming, selling livestock, Farm Aid and Homegrown.org,

sheep headLately, I’ve been letting my flock of sheep stay out later, the afternoon sun warming their backs as they graze those last bits of lush green pasture before getting locked safely into their pen for the night. They meander up when the time is right, some kind of biological clock telling them the long day is over and that it’s time for a warm bed of hay and rest.

On one night in particular, the girls headed straight for their favorite spots, all in a row, one by one. They reminded me of elephants walking head to tail, each one holding onto the tail in front of her. Behind them were the six lambs, following along as if they, too, knew it was time. The moms began settling in nicely, easing themselves into wind-down mode.

Suddenly, as if someone turned on a switch, all six lambs did a 360 and raced right back out of the pen. They ran to one side and just stood there, bunched up and leaning against one another, and I swear they were smiling. Then, from a completely still position, the two biggest ones leaped straight in the air, did a half nelson, and landed back down with very pleased looks on their faces. Like a bunch of 5-year-olds, they stood there as if to say, “We’re not ready for bed yet.”

All I could think of was the times when, as mothers, we’ve called our kids to come in from playing in the garden and have gotten the “Oh, Mom, just five more minutes” reply. I might have thought it was time to close the gate, but the babes had other plans. As I approached, they took off like a shot, ran down the pasture, did a complete once-around and then headed straight for the pen. Neither I nor their moms were in charge. “Teenagers,” I said to myself. “They’re like a pack of adolescents, feeling their oats.”

Once the babes were back in the pen, each one found its mama and then, when and only when they were ready, they started settling down. I’ve been told that, when you’re around animals long enough, you’ll come to learn that you’re not actually the boss. For me, giving up control is a good thing. I’ve always thought I was in charge, but farming has taught me otherwise. Once again I’m reminded that I’m there to keep them safe and to tend them, to feed them and to enjoy them, but really, they have their own nature. I’m learning to respect that and allow them to be, well, sheep. More than that, I’m learning to enjoy it.

I had a great experience recently in selling my first lamb, a sweet black ram who went to live on a farm in Houlton, Maine. I’m not a life-long Mainer, and I’m still learning how big this state is. When I got a call from a gentleman who wanted a black ram for wool, I asked him where he was. Houlton, he said. Since my trips generally keep me within a 50-mile radius of the midcoast, I had no idea where that was. Almost to Canada, he told me.




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